The Holidays can be a difficult and stressful time for anyone, but especially for those who are grieving. If you or someone you know has recently suffered a loss, you may find it helpful to explore the benefits of self-care.
For those who are grieving, holidays can be difficult
As I stare the impending holidays in the face, I am immediately reminded of what a difficult time of year this can be. While many experience the holidays as a time of celebration, friends and family, many experience the holidays as anything but a time of joy. For those who have recently suffered a loss (“recent” is a relative term!), the holidays can be a time of sadness, loneliness and isolation. The holidays also tend to stir of old wounds of loss and bring them back to the surface for another layer of processing and healing. To compound the challenge of the holidays for those who are mourning is that darn guilt demon that creeps in and tries to tell us how we “should” be feeling and what we “should” be doing. Then there are those really well meaning souls who mistakenly tell us to “get over it, move on, cheer up.”
First Aid for the Holidays
So, how might we respond to the grief we may be feeling during the holiday season or to the grief we might be seeing in another? Below is a list of ideas for those who are grieving and for those who may know someone who is struggling with grief this holiday season:
Help if you are grieving:
- Be kind to yourself
- Honor your feelings – if you are sad, cry; angry, find a healthy release; lonely, seek out a friend; if you want to be alone, be alone.
- Be proactive about creating opportunities to be nurtured: schedule a massage, go out for a lovely meal, treat yourself to a day to just be, make time to be with special friends and family members.
- Take time to be present to the grief and allow it to move through you in a healthy, gentle way.
- Avoid giving into the guilt demon – nobody else knows how you are feeling and what you need than you! Take care of the vulnerable part of you and give it what it needs.
- Schedule an appointment with your counselor or spiritual director for support with your grief.
- If at anytime you are experiencing thoughts of suicide….GET HELP. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1800-273-8255 or go to their website for a listing of local services: http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org
If you know someone who is grieving:
- Reach out to them
- Invite them to talk to you about the person/s they lost and to express their grief
- Take time to listen to their grief, don’t try to fix it, just be present as a listening presence
- Don’t be tempted to tell them how they “should” be feeling or what they “should” be doing, honor their process
- If they are alone, find out if they have plans for the holidays and invite them to join you if they wish
- Encourage them to seek professional help through a counselor or spiritual director if you feel they may benefit from additional support
- If you suspect they are suicidal, help them get help. See above for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline contact information
What we grieve
Another thing I am reminded of is that there are all kinds of grief and they all can show up at the holidays. So here is a brief list of things we grieve and an invitation to remember it is not just death that shows up in our grieving:
- A death of an acquaintance of loved one
- A terminal diagnosis for ourselves or someone we know or love
- A diagnosis of a serious illness
- A job loss
- Children leaving the home
- Parents, children, ourselves aging
- A significant change in our normal life routine
- The decision to enter into a recovery program (we grieve the loss of that which formerly gave us comfort – cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, compulsive sexual activity, etc.)
- A significant disappointment (not getting a job we wanted, not getting accepted for a promotion or to the college we wanted, etc.)
- A relationship breakup
In the end, the invitation is to be present to the grief, allow it to unfold organically and be kind and gentle with ourselves and others.
Authentic Freedom Ministries